Ukraine rebels ‘admit downing Malaysia plane’ in phone intercepts

Malaysia Airlines crash site near DonetskBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS |
Ukrainian intelligence has released telephone intercepts said to contain direct admissions by pro- Russian rebels that they shot down a civilian airliner that crashed on Thursday in eastern Ukraine. All 295 people onboard the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, which came down in a field east of the city of Donetsk, are presumed dead. An American intelligence official told the Associated Press, on condition of anonymity, that Washington is certain the airliner was brought down by a surface-to-air missile. Late on Thursday, Valentyn Nalivaichenko, director of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU), said in a press conference that his agency had conclusive evidence showing that pro-Russian rebels had shot down the plane. Nalivaichenko said the evidence included recordings of telephone conversations between rebel commanders and Russian intelligence officers, which were intercepted just minutes after the plane was brought down. During Nalivaichenko’s press conference, the SSU published the intercepted conversations on YouTube with subtitles in English, French, German and Polish. The videos identify some of the participants in the conversations, including Igor Bezler, a leading commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, and Vasily Geranin, who is said to be a Colonel in Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, known commonly as GRU. In one phone call, allegedly made at 4:40 Kiev time, 20 minutes after the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down, Bezler appears to tell Geranin: “We have just shot down a plane […]. It fell down beyond Yenakievo”. In a subsequent intercept, another rebel commander calls a Russian intelligence officer from the site of the crash to report that the downed plane appeared to be civilian, not military, as originally thought, and that the crash site was filled with casualties. “It’s 100 percent a passenger aircraft”, he reports, adding that there are no weapons visible on site: “absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper”, he says. Nalivaichenko told reporters on Thursday that Kiev’s “first task” would be to “investigate who among the Russian commanders gave the order to shoot down the plane”, implying that the Russian-backed rebels would not have taken the initiative to open fire at the airliner without permission from Moscow. Meanwhile, news from the Ukrainian capital suggest that the rebels, who were the first to reach the crash site, may have seized the downed plane’s flight recorder. Its absence might make it harder for investigators to determine the precise cause of the crash.

15 Responses to Ukraine rebels ‘admit downing Malaysia plane’ in phone intercepts

  1. Robert says:

    Your credibility is diminishing rapidly by mirroring reports by obviously skewed MSM. Very disappointing. After this report your future work will be suspect, so sad. It is entirely too early to promote such opinions as promoted by the MSM and governments who have much to hide.

  2. intelNews says:

    @Robert: United States President Barack Obama has just announced that, according to American intelligence, the Malaysia Airlines plane was brought down by a surface-to-air missile fired from a rebel-held area. So I must admit I am relieved at the prospect of my damaged credibility being partially restored. [JF]

  3. Civilian flight ‘black boxes’ can only rule out a probable mechanical failure and can lend nothing to determining who might have fired a missile bringing the plane down, because civilian airliners do not have electronic counter-measure capability. The plane would never have seen the missile coming and could record nothing relevant to this.

    Having trained on a similar system (Improved Hawk) to the Buk or SA 11 (a possibly improved version of this is the alleged system used to down the flight), I tend to agree with the experts doubting the rebels had this capability. First one would expect there would have been photos emerged of such a large & unique mobile system in rebel hands (large track vehicle radar and launch systems.) Then, there are the numerous technical persons required to maintain and operate such a system. Next, one would have expected such a system in rebel hands would have already been exposed if it were so much as to have employed its radar to lock onto any military craft in the area previously (Ukraine’s military jets would detect this with built in electronic counter-measures.)

    Any such system based in Russia initiating a launch would have been at the outer limit of its capability and no one is alleging the missile came from Russia. A launch by Kiev seems most probable in the initial circumstance.

    A question should be asked; did Kiev keep this airspace open at 10,000 meters and Ukrainian air traffic control send the flight into area where rebels had downed planes in the preceding days, as a false flag? There certainly are historical precedents. Or was it simply stupidity, such as SAM units recently moved into the area had been testing the system after set-up (this would be routine procedure) and launched because the personnel were not competent to take the critical steps differentiating between a test exercise and a live launch … with the Malaysian flight the unfortunate victim of a test of the system gone totally wrong-

    The intelligence agencies in Kiev would have motivation to create a false dialogue and Russian professionals likely know better than to be loose lipped in electronic communication transmissions (and is why the NSA has had little access to Kremlin communications, where alternatives had been developed.) The chance a Russian colonel would be in direct contact with the rebels via electronic transmissions is low, while the chance Kiev would invent an alibi is high.

  4. Edward Oduduwa says:

    @Robert Thomas West : Seconded. Very apt sir

  5. Robert says:

    JF I enjoyed your response. So, the President claims thta the American intel. informed him that it was a SAM, surface to air missle, fired by the rebels which brought the MAS fligt 17 down. This certainly eliminates any other possibility. Since when has Pres. BHO, or his intel agencies told the truth? None of them have any credibility and have a history of dissiminating false information from their inception. When has Pres. BHO been honest about anything? When has any President in the past 150 years been honest. Do you recall how Viet Nam started, with a false report of a US Ship attacked in Viet Nam. Did Saddam Hussain have chemical and biological weapons? No! Did the CIA import cocain? Yes!

  6. mike says:

    As an airline disaster recovery expert, I want to correct Ronald Thomas West. The black box data is extremely critical in the investigation. Data will include discussions between the pilots at the time of the attack, as well as the cabin sounds, including the sound of the explosion. That will also likely tell us the kind of missile fired. It can have a tremendous impact on the investigation.

  7. intelNews says:

    @Robert: I see. So not only do I lack credibility, but the President of the United States, along with the entire US Intelligence Community, haven’t any either. I notice that you are posting anonymously, which arguably does little to enhance your own credibility. But, putting that aside, may I ask who, in your mind, has the credibility required by your high standards to express a conclusive view on the Malaysia Airlines plane incident? [JF]

  8. @Mike, I stand corrected on the possible sound of explosion… but I expect you’ve stretched the idea expecting the type of missile could be determined from this. A SAM such as the SA11 could down the plane from two distinct trajectories, direct hit and near proximity (near proximity is more likely.) But the pilots almost certainly would not have time to react with any relevant conversation prior to target disintegration in the case of a civilian plane. The boxes would be largely limited to information such as determining whether there had been instructions to deviate flight path and rationale/reaction and rule out mechanical failure (as I’d noted.)

    @JF I don’t share your ‘faith’ in the credibility of the US intelligence establishment, as this is geopolitical high stakes incident subject to spin (regardless of the facts), recalling the Gulf of Tonkin admissions of recent years and noting the National Security Archive is sitting tight on a top secret classification of certain documents concerning the downing of Dag Hammerskjold’s plane (some things can never be admitted.) I’ll forward you a mail and relevant recent document on this second event-

  9. Rus says:


    because civilian airliners do not have electronic counter-measure capability.

    …El Al planes would be the exception.

  10. colin Maze says:

    To Ronald Thomas,
    As I write this it was reported 35 minutes ago that a further two Ukrainian fighter jets have been downed, and the separatists have claimed responsibility.

    I respect your experience and knowledge regarding surface to air missile systems however there are relevant data points that have emerged since you posted on the 18th. The BUK or Gadfly missile systems optimally operate in three distinct but inter-connected military platforms. Respectively it would contain a command, radar and missile launch vehicle.

    Interestingly, BUK missiles can be launched without the radar and command vehicle, however in this instance the parameters for judgement error are greatly increased as identification of the target is impossible if the target is not in visible range, Flight MH17 was obviously not visible to the separatists.

    Furthermore, while I can not confirm the authenticity of the video recording, the Ukrainians have released video of a single BUK missile launcher arriving from Russia on the morning of the 17th of July and departing after the civilian airliner was brought down.

    That the US and the UK have both corroborated that a surface to air missile was fired from separatist held territory at the exact time that MH17 was shot out of the sky should not be ignored. I appreciate that this information was not available to you at the time of your post.

    Additionally, the separatists claimed responsibility for three Ukrainian aircraft that were downed prior to MH17 being shot out of the sky. The leader of the separatists immediately after MH17 was shot down, posted on Vkontakte (the Russian version of Facebook) the following “We warned you not to fly in our skies”. Incriminatingly, this post was deleted when it became obvious that the plane was in fact a civilian aircraft.

    I have also listened to the recordings released by the Ukrainians, as I am a Russian speaker (though I am not Russian, and I lived in Kiev for several years), and only one of the three taped conversation between 6 individuals speaks with a clear Ukrainian accent. Your dismissal that a Russian colonel would be in contact with the separatists is not based on any insight or evidence, and is entirely possible if the narrative of the Western and Ukrainian has merits.

    While I agree that the Ukrainians would have a motive to create a “false dialogue” in your words, not only is the downside too great as it would be difficult to conceal in perpetuity from the Western Allies but also the Russians have an equally great motivation if they are involved in the separatist command structure. President Putin’s mendacious behaviour in Crimea is case and point. Specifically he maintained that there were no Russian regular soldiers outside of their military bases in Crimea before the referendum. Exactly 7 days from making the statement, he admitted that there were in fact Russian soldiers present. Moreover, the veritable plethora of conflicting and frankly outlandish explanations emanating from the Kremlin controlled media including, but not limited to the claim that the Ukrainians were attempting to shoot down Putin’s plane as it returned from the World Cup in Brazil (It never flew over Ukrainian airspace. It did come “close” to MH17’s flight path over Polish airspace) betrays a hubris often employed by the Kremlin.

    Finally, I also find it suspicious that the Russian UN delegation, in exchange for expediting and facilitating international observers to the crash site (why would they be prevented access by the separatists is also conspicuous question that allows for a limited or single answer, i.e. that they were complicit in the downing and needed to cover their tracks), insisted on any resolution adopted by the security council for this end to be devoid of any mention of blame. Logically, this allows for the conclusion that the Russians have influence over the separatists.


  11. @colin

    You write “Interestingly, BUK missiles can be launched without the radar and command vehicle, however in this instance the parameters for judgement error are greatly increased as identification of the target is impossible if the target is not in visible range, Flight MH17 was obviously not visible to the separatists”

    Considering I”d covered this preceding fact in my article…

    “Does a Buk launcher have a rudimentary, stands alone radar integrated? Yes, presuming there were a functioning system in the hands of the ‘rebels’ which it would seem there was not. Any professional technicians allegedly provided by Russia would absolutely understand a stands alone launcher would be too dangerous to use for target engagement because it would be firing ‘blind’ .. because this rudimentary detection component would be a ‘range only radar’ that can tell you practically nothing about a target other than distance”

    …would indicate you skimmed the piece or stopped reading before articles conclusion.

  12. @ Colin, my apologies, I realized I’m referring to an article I’d not linked here previously:

    If Joe kindly will post this, there’s ^ my up to date assessment

  13. Colin Mazes says:

    To Ronald Thomas West,

    Thank you for posting your article. I read it, and several others that you posted on your site with enthusiasm. I can assure that not only did I read it to its conclusion, but also did so several times.

    After reflecting on the content, and exploring your posts, I would offer the following:.

    Your opening quote from Aesop could just as easily be applied to Putin as it is to Obama. The lack of balance and objectivity throughout the essay is notable.

    You employ Tautology in exhibit C.

    You provide links to outdated information and present it as current fact (neo-nazi’s forces controlling Kiev). (NB: Svoboda was part of an interim government but his party was unequivocally rejected by the absolute majority of Ukrainian voters in the May 25th election. Any continued assertion to their support is simply not based on the facts. Further, whenever I see the Kremlin accuse the government in Kiev being fascists, I am reminded that the GDR and Soviet Union referred to the Berlin Wall as the Anti-Fascist Protection barrier. Far Right Extremsist parties are represented to a greater extent in Western Europe and Russia specifically than in Ukraine. I could make the argument that Zhirinovsky’s party representation in the Duma is a far more alarming.)

    You present links as evidence (Kiev and the rebels) that contain no supporting information for the point that you attempting to emphasize. Further, you cite a US citizen who speaks Russian and Ukrainian as an authoritative source. Your source material throughout the piece is spurious.

    You neglect to mention that the reports about separatist rebels boasting of having captured Buk missiles from a Ukrainian army base near Donetsk that first surfaced on June 29th, were mainly carried by Russian state news agencies. Accordingly, the story first ran on TV Zvezda, the news agency of the Russian defence ministry. Kiev’s involvement in this narrative is extremely limited. Your license on this issue is suspect given the obfuscation clearly emanating from Moscow. Again the lack of balance detracts from your argument.

    Your focus on Western accounts relying almost exclusively on social media is simply misleading. This allows you to discount the post by the head of the self-proclaimed defence forces claiming responsibility and subsequent retraction as Western subterfuge. The absence of a positive (for example, Western or US satellite data proving a missile launch or video data of Russian heavy artillery crossing the Russian border) does not prove a negative, yet this is your conclusion. The Russian accounts were at first tenuous then fanciful then outright fabrication. Specifically that the Ukrainians were attempting to assassinate Putin in his plane – it was never over Ukraine! To the Sukhoi fighter mirroring MH-17 AND importantly at the height of MH-17 (it cannot fly that high) then the attempted hacking of Wikipedia to change the page on the Sukhoi’s specs.

    My final comment (though there are many more) on your article, “Noise ” & the shoot-down of flight MH-17 is that the logic you employ to substantiate your point is not balanced or linear and makes suppositions not available to one who does not have access to the rebels command structure. You make no inference that you have access, nor does your source material make this claim. I do not believe that you have privileged access after reading many of your blog posts, primarily as there are no citations, however that is not the only evidence I use to make this conlcusion. Specifically, you are saying that the rebels are smart people, and by extension qualified. Consequently, they would not use a Buk missile system because only a commercial airliner can fly at that altitude and would obviously be flying on to Russian airspace. This logic does not pass the null hypothesis test, and completely ignores the fact that smart people make mistakes. It is entirely plausible that they were not qualified or under qualified and could have mistaken MH-17 as a Ukrainian military cargo plane. Moreover a partially trained crew could operate it without knowing what they were doing.

    That you fail to mention that the separatists have shot down numerous Ukrainian military aircraft is extremely suspicious. They have shot at, destroyed and claimed responsibility for at least 16 Ukrainian aircraft regularly since the conflict started. You make no account of these actions in your meandering essay. I would highlight that a Ukrainian Antonov-26 was shot down while flying at 21,000 feet on July 14th. This range is well beyond the traditional shoulder fired missiles.

    Even if I agree that the Obama administration cannot be believed, that does not support your thesis because there are many players in this catastrophe with competing agendas. You completely neglect any mention of the Kremlin’s mendacious behaviour in your narrative, dismiss other relevant points (“I don’t think it is relevant where any allegedly missing rebel missile went.”) and fail to provide scope by exclusively focusing on 1 missile launcher system, that is allegedly non-operational.

    The circumstantial evidence is so overwhelming that to fail to explore the Kremlin’s involvement verges on the negligent. To completely discount it in such a partisan manner as you do, and blame the US, Ukraine etc. is reckless in its advocacy. Since Yanukovich’s ouster, Putin has abrogated 4 treaties that are the bedrock of the post War order. Namely the Helsinki accords, the Budapest memorandum, The Russian-Ukrainian Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation and the UN Charter. He has attempted to create a modicum of doubt to mask his intentions and involvement, that unfortunately resulted in the death of every passenger on MH-17.


  14. @ Colin: Just one point… you write

    “You provide links to outdated information and present it as current fact (neo-nazi’s forces controlling Kiev). (NB: Svoboda was part of an interim government but his party was unequivocally rejected by the absolute majority of Ukrainian voters in the May 25th election. Any continued assertion to their support is simply not based on the facts”

    This May 25th election changed nothing in actuality. The election was for a president and did not replace the parliament where five Svoboda ministers still hold power… never mind the ruling coalition broke up a few days ago, they’re still there. And that misrepresentation sets the tone for your entire rebuttal. That is all-

  15. Colin Mazes says:

    When the Yatsenuk government resigned on the 24th of July, Three Svoboda party members were members of the cabinet, not 5. Ihor Tenyukh and Oleh Maknitsky were no longer in there capacity as Minister of Defence and Prosecutor General respectively. Continuing to include them in any list is presenting outdated facts as current information.

    The May 25th election was a dramatic event that changed the political and geographic landscape of Ukraine. That anyone can state that it changed” nothing in actuality” betrays an incredible lack of understand of recent Ukrainian history. Undoubtedly, It unequivocally demonstrated the Ukrainian peoples rejection of far right politics. Moreover, The rhetoric from the Kremlin dramatically changed after this election as they realized the tenuous relationship by continuing to label them as fascists.

    The Kremlin apologists however persist in conveniently choosing which data points to construct an alternative and tenuous interpretation. For example, in the May 25th Presidential election, Svoboda received 1.16% of the national vote and Pravi Sektor polled just 0.70%. I invite anyone to contrast these paltry figures with the trajectory of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. In the most recent Duma elections they received 11.4% of the national vote, up from 8.14% in 2007. Their leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky even ordered his Aides to violently rape a pregnant reporter in April of this year. In percentage and absolute terms the Russian far right representation is significantly greater than that of Ukraine.

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